“There’s nothing called a homogeneous Indian Muslim politically”

MJ AKBAR is a prolific Indian author and journalist. His most recent book is ‘Tinderbox: The past and future of Pakistan’. In an exclusive interview with Inam Abidi Amrohvi, Muslims Today, Akbar speaks on issues that plague the Indian Muslims.

M J Akbar
M J Akbar

Education has been the bane of Indian Muslims. Has the situation improved both in terms of the infrastructure and mindset?

Yes, and I feel education begins with the mindset. I noticed this in the 1990s, after the high tension of the Babri Masjid episode. I think there was a very strong sense, within the Muslim community of India, of having being let down by politicians who created a hype which led to a high spurt of emotionalism. The community in particular felt abandoned mainly after the Congress government promised to protect the mosque and then quietly went to sleep on the day of the demolition.

I feel there come crisis points in the lives of people which wakes them up. There was a crisis point for example, in 1991, when the economy was hit in India. Similarly, the mosque demolition, too, made Indian Muslims realise that the future lay not in the politics of manipulation (what we have seen being done by those who seek Muslim votes) but in the basics, which is education, from education the economic empowerment. Education is the primary means of economic empowerment. The opportunity base in India is huge.

One of the more important things I see in all the investments of the community, is the education of the girl child. We are already seeing the change in rising literacy levels and the economic opportunities created as a consequence of these investments of the last 20 years.

There is a lot of related infrastructure development all over the country. Education is the biggest growth industry in India. Continue reading ““There’s nothing called a homogeneous Indian Muslim politically””

“We continue to make Urdu as a Muslim Language.”

SALEEM Kidwai is a medieval historian and works in the area of culture conservation. His work includes the translation of Malika Pukhraj’s autobiography in English. In an exclusive interview with Muslims Today, Kidwai shares his thoughts on Awadh and its culture.

Picture of Saleem Kidwai
Saleem Kidwai

MT: What was the Lucknow of the 50s and 60s like? Any fond memories or interesting incidents that you would like to share.

SK: I’ve memories of a slow and very civilised city. But, even then I felt there was something that Lucknow needed. Perhaps that’s why I chose to stay away from the city for 34 years.

MT: What changes do you see in the city and is there something that worries you?

SK: I found it worse. The state has become politically very active. To me Lucknow is a very provincial town, not just in being a small town but also in attitudes. One one level I find the people extremely tolerant and kind and on the other not open to new ideas and change. Continue reading ““We continue to make Urdu as a Muslim Language.””

Time to Vote for Good Governance

Politics is a strange world. Sworn enemies suddenly become friends in the name of seat sharing, and those holding membership for years suddenly realise that they have ideological differences with the party.

While in school we read about people like Nehru and Azad. The kind of passion and vision they had for their country. One reason could be their own involvement in the freedom struggle. For them it was country first.

As we close in to celebrate our 67th Independence Day, a lot has changed, including the politics in India. There is more polarisation than ever. The three Cs (Communalism, Castesism & Corruption) have changed the political landscape in India. It’s in this changed atmosphere that Indian Muslims are finding it difficult to raise awareness about genuine issues that affect them. Continue reading “Time to Vote for Good Governance”

“Madrasas have to take right decisions to keep up with the current times.”

PROFESSOR Waseem Akhtar is the Vice Chancellor of Integral University in Lucknow, UP. In an exclusive interview with Muslims Today, Prof. Akhtar speaks at length on how education can transform minorities.

MT: Please tell us about your journey so far.

Prof. Waseem Akhtar
Prof. Waseem Akhtar

WA: I remember as a child often diving into my world of dreams. Sometime I swam, sometime I drowned and at times even flew. In real life too wherever I worked, be it in India or the Middle East, I always strived for innovation. By the grace of God my efforts were appreciated.

Years back while working as a Principal in a school I wanted to bring about some major changes, but couldn’t, because of certain limitations. The thought stayed with me and I bought a 25000 sq mt of land to build a school of my own vision. We started in a hut with four students and two teachers, including me. Dreams started shaping up fast, first came the high school, and then followed a polytechnic, an engineering college, a pharmacy college, a management college and other professional offerings. Continue reading ““Madrasas have to take right decisions to keep up with the current times.””

From the diary of a hockey legend

sibtainnaqviSAIYED Ali Sibtain Naqvi holds a unique distinction of representing both India and Oman in the field of hockey. During the 2002 Olympic Games at Sydney, Australia, a commemorative postage stamp was issued in his name, being the senior most administrator among the National Olympic Committees. Naqvi is a winner of several national and international honours, including a Lifetime Sports Achievement Award by the Government of Oman.  A short film “Evergreen Ace” based on his life was released in 2007. In a candid interview with MT, he shared glimpses from his life, and the role hockey played in it.

“I was born at Amroha on the 10th of Dec, 1929 (the schools’ records showed the year as 1932). Being a survivor of the 1942 Quit India Movement, I remember how students were used for political purposes. I was a student of class Xth in the Govt High School, Sitapur (UP), when India celebrated independence. Continue reading “From the diary of a hockey legend”

The Sir Syed model of Muslim empowerment

THE name Sir Syed Ahmad Khan evokes considerable respect from people in India, especially Muslims on either side of the border. A man of vision, he thought of progressive Muslim education on a scale rarely attempted earlier and against formidable odds. It is important to understand what drove him to bring in modern education as a savior of Muslims.

The Prophet of Islam [PBUH] said, “There are two persons that one is permitted to envy: The one to whom God has given riches and who has the courage to spend it in search for truth; the other to whom God has given knowledge and wisdom and who applies it for the benefit of mankind and shares it with his fellows.” Sir Syed belong to the second group. Continue reading “The Sir Syed model of Muslim empowerment”

Mir Anees deserves better

   “Teri har mouj-e-nafas rooh-ul-ameeN ki jaaN hai
     tu meri urdu zubaaN ka bolta Qur’an hai”

     Every breath of yours is the life of Gabrielle
     You are the speaking Qur’an of the urdu language

These are the words of the great urdu poet Josh Maliahabadi for Mir Babar Ali Anees.

The picture on the left is of a lane in old Lucknow dedicated to Mir Anees. Times have certainly changed!

“The poetic qualities and merits of Anees are not matched by any other poet,”

said Allama Shibli Nomani.

Picture on the right is of the haveli of Mir Anees, which is part of the Heritage Walk.

Election campaigns have not spared even this one!

Islamic Calligraphy: In search of a lifeline

THE art of Islamic calligraphy finds its roots in early Islam. Part of its popularity lay in the way Quran stresses the importance of written word. In Surah 96 (verse 3 to 4), God is described as one Who “taught man with the pen”. The Surah 68 starts with the oath, “And by the Pen”. There are several other Suras talking about writing, viz., Surah 96 (verse 3 to 4), Surah 82 (verse 10), Surah 50 (verse 16). Naturally, the best style of writings were developed for God. As Arabic became the language of all Muslims in Arabia and elsewhere, it gave birth to beautiful new forms of Arabic script.

Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law and the fourth Caliph of Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib is considered to be the first master of calligraphy. He developed a Kufic script where the tops of alifs were twin-horned. [1] The Kufic in general is an angular script found on tombstones and coins.

The sacred nature of calligraphy ensured that in Islamic architecture inscriptions became an important means of decoration. Continue reading “Islamic Calligraphy: In search of a lifeline”

What makes the muslims angry

Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”
—Barack Obama, 44th President of USA

THE  year 1979 holds special importance. It was the year that saw two  significant happenings in the Muslim world. The events occurred in two  states holding contrasting views on Islam but triggered by a common  enemy, the US. One was the hostage crisis in the Shiite ruled Iran,  which was covered quite extensively by the press, the other being the  lesser known and reported uprising at Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca,  the city under the control of Sunni Muslims.

There  was a fundamental difference though between the two events. The embassy  takeover in Tehran was a student initiative against the US for its  meddling in the country’s politics. The siege of Mecca was the rebellion  of a Muslim group against the policies of the ruling family in Saudi  Arabia which were influenced by the US.

The  rebellion in Mecca combined with the events in neighboring Iran forever  changed the equation of Muslims with the US, and the west in general. Continue reading “What makes the muslims angry”

Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz – A Journey of Love, Hope and Nationalism

IT WAS 1935. The union hall of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was brimming with excitement. A young man in sherwani stands up to recite a poem ‘Inquilab,’ in his inimitable style –

“KohsaaroN ki taraf se surkh aandhi aayegi
Ja-baja aabaadiyoN meiN aag si lag jaayegi
Aur is rang-e-shafaq meiN ba-hazaraaN aab-o taab
Jagmagaaega watan ki hurriyat ka aaftaab”

[A red storm is approaching from over the mountains
Sparking a fire in the settlements
And on this horizon, amidst a thousand tumults
Shall shine the sun of our land’s freedom]1

The hall reverberates with a thunderous applause. Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz by now was already making waves in the literary circles. Continue reading “Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz – A Journey of Love, Hope and Nationalism”